A modern interpretation of Yoga has nothing to do with a traditional view on this ancient practice. The word “Yoga” refers to the whole, implying that asanas are just one aspect of the process. The entire practice is spiritual and postures are one way to achieve the goal of Yoga – enlightenment. Only when we eliminate unconscious habit patterns are we on the road to happiness, compassion, selflessness and peace. In contrast, Yoga is now limited to asanas with the ultimate goal of physical fitness. This is the reason why I am going to write about the effect of practicing Yoga on mental and spiritual self.
Understanding the importance of moderation
Swami Satchidananda said: “Yoga is not for the person who eats too much, or who starves him or herself. Yoga is not for the person who sleeps too much, or who doesn’t sleep at all. The middle path is Yoga. The Yogi knows how much to eat, to sleep, to speak. That is the middle path.”
This middle path enables me to be balanced both in a physical and a spiritual sense. It guides my diet, my exercises, my actions and my words. It allows me to be at peace with the world around me. When I was at Santosha Yoga Retreat, I learned what it really means maintaining a balance between mind, body and soul.
Self-awareness starts with the body and ends with the soul. Yoga postures allow me to feel pain and discomfort in any part of the body. I become aware of the specific pain at the exact location and this consciousness leads to finding ways to eliminate it. This physical aspect of the practice teaches me that every problem has a solution. More importantly, spiritual awareness makes me a witness of my own Self. I am not afraid of my own thoughts anymore. I embrace them. I accept them. I learn about myself through them.
A clear state of mind helps me become more sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions. I have learned that words are powerful and that they can lead to both happiness and sorrow, which is the reason why our actions should be governed by calmness.
Learning about positive thinking
As I tended to be a bit pessimistic before I started practicing Yoga, I admit that this aspect of the practice was one of the most difficult to incorporate into my everyday life. Developing positive thinking begins with awareness. Being conscious of negative thoughts helps you accept them. Only when we accept them can we change attitudes to people and situations around us.
One way of creating positive energy which can lead to a positive change is taking up a yoga teacher training. When I have free time, I often grab my Yoga mat and go with my friends to the nearest park. This is the moment I cherish the most. We do Yoga poses, we talk about life, about the world around us, we laugh and we have fun. We are in the moment. We share positive thinking. We are at peace.
The interplay between body and soul finds its place in building self-confidence as well. During the first year of practicing Yoga, I was focused only on my body. I gradually added more complex postures and I gradually increased their duration. After several months, the thought struck me out of blue – I can do it. I can do anything I put my mind to. As time passed, self-assuredness shyly entered other spheres of life.
Yoga helped me become aware of one important thing – fear. The more attached to fear you are, the more insecure you become. I believe that fear is an illusion, but it can become reality in our minds and it can hinder us from being truly happy. When you are on your mat, nothing else matters but the sense of peace. The moment you step back into the real world, you are your old self again. Yoga teaches us that we can escape from the claws of fear. But, as with anything in Yoga, it takes time.
I hope I have succeed in explaining how Yoga changed my life, because this is what Yoga did to me. The old me is gone. I believe I am a better person now. And I am proud of it!
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